The Free Word challenge – is there a crisis of trust?


Image by hozinja

Young Poets Network has teamed up with Free Word, who work at the meeting point of literature, literacy and free expression, to offer you the chance to write a new poem inspired by the theme of ‘trust’.

Winners will receive prizes, publication and a reading opportunity – read on for further details, as Free Word tells us more about the idea of trust and the poetry challenge:

Why we think trust is timely and important

Many people say that there’s a crisis of trust in the world today, especially among young people: that we do not trust the people and the organisations we used to. The police; parents; newspapers; politicians; even our friends. But do you think that’s true? Is it as bad as it’s made out to be? Or do you think trust is still alive and well?

We want you to write about what trust means to you. You could write about trust that has been threatened, damaged, or repaired. About how it feels to trust someone for the first time. About having absolute faith in someone, or something. Or about being betrayed, and never knowing if you can trust anyone again.

Things you might want to take inspiration from

Lately there has been a lot of talk about young people losing trust in the UK’s institutions, like schools, the government and the police force. Jenny Jones, writing in the Independent feels very strongly about some of these issues and outlines them in her article, Young people in this country don’t trust our police’.

Poets approach the issue of trust from lots of different directions. In one poem, ‘Something Like This’, by turns satirical and raging, Frankie Green loses faith in our government:

…when I read the newspaper,
the bill, your questions, a pain
grows at the centre of my chest

In the hard-hitting ‘To Whom It May Concern’, Michael Bartholomew-Biggs explores how it feels when trust is broken by institutions and also between fellow humans:

Denials alone won’t do
for those who make their own small ugly choices

Derek Walcott writes about trusting oneself again, and how we can get out of the habit so easily, in his beautiful poem ‘Love After Love’, which draws on Biblical and spiritual themes:

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life

How will you do it? Here are some jumping off points

We’ve chosen the topic of trust because it’s being brought up again and again in the news recently, especially in the context of young people. So look around you. How do you feel about trust? Where do you think it’s most important? Where is it strong, and where is it broken?

There are many different kinds of trust, so be creative with the idea, and maybe approach it in an unexpected way. Who do you trust? Who can’t you trust? And why? Is your poem going to be about your own life, in your own voice, or will it be from someone else’s point of view? Will your poem focus on something happening in the real world, or will it be something you’ve made up?

You might want to write about trust between people – like family, friends, or strangers. Or you could thing about the institutions we might have trust in – whether that’s the press, politicians or religion.

This is your chance to show us what you think, and be as original as possible. We can’t wait to see what you write.

The Trust debates

There was a special debate around trust and young people at Free Word Centre in London on the 18th November. Young people had the chance to debate trust and authority with a panel of journalists, politicians, poets and police. You can listen to the debate on the Free Word website.

 The prizes

The winning poet will be invited to perform their work at one of Free Word’s Time to Talk debates about trust at Free Word Centre in London. (If you live outside the UK, then someone else will read your poem, so you will still be represented.) The winner and two runners-up will also win book tokens, books selected by the Free Word team and have their work published on the Free Word and Young Poets Network websites.

How to enter

The challenge is now closed – read the wonderful winners and be inspired to write your own poem to submit to one of our Poetry Opportunities!

‘A Horse Is Not Always A Horse’ by Natasha Bailey

‘Salt’ by Oriana Tang

‘Untitled’ by Aoife O’Connor

Free Word logo

Free Word works at the meeting point of literature, literacy and free expression, developing local, national and international collaborations that explore the transformative power of words. We manage a building that hosts organisations working across literature, literacy and free expression, we present and promote a year-round programme of events, and we pursue three ‘Lines of Enquiry’ which explore key questions of our time and engage diverse audiences across the world. To find out more about Free Word, visit

Published November, 2013

33 thoughts on “The Free Word challenge – is there a crisis of trust?

  1. I am highly interested in your competitions. Can you please send more opportunities for those in the 30 something age group.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Nidhi, as long as it’s a poem on the theme of trust you can write whatever you like, in whatever style you like!

    1. Hi Orli, you are welcome to send in a video clip, but please send along a written version of the poem as well. Thanks!

  2. Hi, i know this is a bit random, but do you guys ever do humorous poetry competitions? I love doing humorous poetry and it would be great if you guys made some challlenges or competitions in that area.

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